“Officer! Oh, ahhhh-fficer! Yoohoo!”
Sgt. Brant cringed while his back was still turned. That voice was accompanied by the small town’s favorite gossip, Miss Luna Pratt. Favorite might have been an overstatement. She was more like the best source of up-to-date news on all your neighbors’ private dealings.
He, like most of the town, would rather run the other direction than stand and chit-chat with the lady who’d likely take every word you said and peel it apart until she’d picked the bones of your life story dry.
Brant relaxed the instant tension in his shoulders brought on by the sound of her beckoning by rolling them back a few times then turned with a polite smile plastered on his face.
“Miss Pratt. What can I do for you today?”
He looked at her and then over her shoulder to assess the empty street left in her wake. The door to the fifty’s diner, Sunrise Cafe, slammed shut. It figured. The cowards. He moved his gaze back to her face and noticed the unnatural ghostly pallor of her otherwise rosy cheeks.
“Oh, Officer Brant. It’s terrible. Just terrible!”
She sounded on the verge of tears and Brant could feel the beginnings of sympathy for the plump little woman grasping her handbag with both hands so tight her knuckles were white.
“What seems to be the problem, Miss Pratt?”
“Well, it all started when I was down the street at Glenda’s Hair Parlor. You know how I love to have my curls freshened up ever few weeks. Well, I was in getting my usual perm touch-up and Doris showed up. She’s such a know-it-all, you know, and she wouldn’t stop talking about how she’d gone to the kindergarten class and had to teach the students all about proper English skills. She seems to think she knows how to spell “apple” better than Mrs. Gordon. You do know Mrs. Gordon don’t you? She’s the kindergarten teacher–”
“Miss Pratt, I’m sorry to interrupt, but you said there was a problem.”
Her eyes grew wide, and she gave her head one great, vigorous nod before prying one hand from her bag strap to reach inside.
“Oh, yes, Officer Brant. It’s true.”
He watched her pull out a hankie and dab it at her chin and neck. Brant took a covert peek over her shoulder again. Still no sign of anyone.
“As I was saying, I was at Glenda’s and my perm was going famously. I just love the little bounce and fluff a good perm gives to my hair. It’s gotten rather weak as I’ve grown older, but that’s neither here nor there. Ah, where was I? Oh yes, so half way through listening to Doris ramble on about her mediocre English skills, who do you think walked in?”
Brant’s wandering mind was brought back to the present by the silence and expectant look Miss Luna worn upon her face. It took him a second to recall what she’d been saying.
“Oh, uh? I have no idea, Miss Pratt. Who?”
“You’ll never guess! Mayor Tinker, that’s who.”
“Miss Pratt, is this going somewhere?”
“Of course it is. The Mayor is a thief. I’m sure of it.”
Her pronouncement caught his attention and curiosity. No one had ever accused the mayor of jaywalking let alone theft.
“That’s quite an accusation, Miss Pratt. Care to explain? Briefly, ma’am.”
“I’m always brief, dear boy. Well, I was under the hair dryer, mercifully able to ignore most of what that Doris was yammering on about, but I did happen to overhear the mayor telling Glenda he’d be issuing her a special permit for the beauty supply shop she wanted to build as an addition to her little parlor. He’s always doing favors for her. I think they have a bit of a tryst, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I have no comment, Miss Pratt.”
“Well, that answers that.”
He stifled another cringe at her all-knowing way of getting gossip out of people.
“Please, Miss Pratt. What did the mayor steal?”
“Oh. Haven’t I already said?”
“To some it may be trifling, but you know me. Every little thing is important.”
He couldn’t argue with that statement. Even the menu of the dog of the postman was important information.
“Well, Officer Brant, I was on my way out of the salon after paying Glenda the $20 for my perm touch-up, which is highway robbery if you ask me, but I digress. As I was paying her, Mayor Tinker pretended to trip and bumped into me. I know he pretended because the look on his face had shenanigans written all over it. The man barely mumbled an apology before he teetered out of the salon. If I didn’t know better I’d say our dear mayor was drunk. Can you believe that? Acting drunk just so he could steal from me. Me of all people! Me who has always loved and served this town so well.”
“What could he have stolen from you, Miss Pratt?”
“Haven’t I said? Well, I suppose I haven’t. The dastardly man stole my glasses. Now I demand you get them back this instant and throw that thief in jail. Teach him to steal from Miss Luna Pratt.”
Brant bit his tongue in an effort to stifle the laughter building in his gut. The mystery of the thieving mayor had already been solved. He couldn’t resist. Brant reached forward and plucked the glasses from out of Miss Luna’s refreshed perm.
“Are these the glasses, Miss Pratt?”
Her eyes shot open wide, the whites so large he thought the round orbs may pop out of her head, then the ashen color of her cheeks turned a bright shade of pink, and she sputtered as her mouth dropped open.
“But–they were in my bag. I’m sure I left them just here in this little pocket on the side. He–well, I never.”
She grabbed the glasses from Brant’s hand and stormed the opposite direction. He grinned and shook his head. Miss Pratt wouldn’t be sharing that bit of news with anyone.